8 Irrelevant Facts About the NFL's Last Draft Pick

With the Miami Dolphins prepared to take Michigan's Jake Long with the No. 1 pick in this weekend's NFL draft—the team has already signed the offensive tackle to a five-year, $30 million deal—speculation has turned to who St. Louis will select with the second pick. But the more intriguing question might be who the Rams will take with the last pick of this year's draft, the player who since 1976 has been referred to as Mr. Irrelevant.

Paul Salata, a businessman, philanthropist, and former football player at USC, will announce the final selection Sunday in New York City. While many others embody the underdog spirit, few celebrate it quite like Salata, the second of seven sons of Yugoslavian immigrants. In 1976, he founded Irrelevant Week, a celebration in Newport Beach, Calif., of the final player picked in the NFL draft.

While the draft has fewer rounds today—and the final player picked is no longer as likely to be the first player cut in training camp—the tradition continues. Events throughout Irrelevant Week include a regatta and sports banquet, where sports celebrities and past honorees roast and offer advice to the latest member of the dubious club.

kkirk.jpg1. The Inaugural Member

Fittingly, University of Dayton wingback Kelvin Kirk missed his flight to California for the first Irrelevant Week, forcing a stand-in to participate in the welcoming ceremonies and motorcade. Given how irrelevant the 487th pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers was, it's unlikely that anyone noticed. Kirk was cut by the Steelers in training camp, but played seven years in the CFL.

2. That's Low

The Lowsman Trophy—a brilliant parody of the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded each year to college football's most outstanding player—is presented to Mr. Irrelevant each year. The trophy, pictured above, artfully depicts a player who is either fumbling the ball or, in the case of the four quarterbacks who have been the last pick in the draft since 1976, on the receiving end of a woefully off-target pass.

3. Mr. Senator

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One of those quarterbacks was Bill Kenney, the 333rd and final overall pick of the 1978 draft out of Northern Colorado. Kenney made the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL in completions and attempts in 1983 with the Kansas City Chiefs and ended his career as a backup with the Washington Redskins in 1989. Kenney went into politics and was elected to the Missouri State Senate five years later. Among the bills he sponsored was one that created "God Bless America" and "Pet Friendly" license plates.

4. Extra Irrelevant

16.jpgAkron's Daron Alcorn became the first kicker taken with the final pick of the draft when Tampa Bay made him the 224th selection in 1993. Alcorn never caught on in the NFL, but he was a member of the Frankfurt Galaxy when they won the irrelevant World Football League championship in 1995 and later became a fixture in the Arena Football League. Football fans are still waiting with bated breath for the first punter to join the club.

5. The First Shall Be Last

irrelevant.jpg
Former University of Alabama cornerback Ramzee Robinson, who had seven tackles in six games for the Detroit Lions last season, is the reigning Mr. Irrelevant. Naturally, Robinson wore No. 1 with the Crimson Tide before being selected with the 255th overall pick. Based on the photo evidence above, he seemed to relish his newfound fame. [Image courtesy of PubClub.com.]

6. The Last Shall Be First

In 1967, before the Mr. Irrelevant label was adopted, the late Jimmy Walker was the last pick in the NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints despite having never played college football at Providence. Walker, a basketball star for the Friars, was the No. 1 pick in that year's NBA draft. He went on to play nine years in the NBA, appearing in two All-Star games, and was the father of retired NBA shooting guard Jalen Rose.

ryan_hoag.jpg

7. The Gustavus Adolphus College

Several Mr. Irrelevants were drafted out of major college programs, including Matt Elliott (Michigan), Everett Ross (Ohio State) and Norman Jefferson (LSU). And then there's Ryan Hoag, Mr. Irrelevant 2003, who caught 144 passes at tiny Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Among the more relevant graduates of the liberal arts school of less than 3,000 are Patsy O'Sherman, co-inventor of 3M Scotchgard, and Annie Martell, the first wife of singer John Denver.

8. That's Super

New England Patriots linebacker Marty Moore, the 222nd pick in the 1994 draft out of Kentucky, became the first Mr. Irrelevant to play in a Super Bowl when he appeared in the Patriots' 35-21 loss to Green Bay in 1997.

So who will be the latest player to join the club? The St. Louis Rams are on the clock.

* * * * *
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For more NFL Draft fun, here's a chance to test your inner Mel Kiper: How many of the last twenty #1 overall picks can you name in 5 minutes? Take the mental_floss quiz.

Scott Allen is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com.

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
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iStock

Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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